[MOUSTIERS-SAINTE-MARIE, FRANCE] — Moustiers in eastern Provence is the gateway to the great Gorges du Verdon, The Grand Canyon of France. (see my post on the Gorges du Verdon here). It’s an Adventureland of fun, with trekking, boating, canyoning, climbing and just plain gawking at all the natural beauty. Here’s my review of Alain Ducasse’s incredible gourmet Michelin-starred hideaway La Bastide de Moustiers in the beautiful town of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, high in the  Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

Bathe in Lavender on the Valensole Plateau

Driving up from southern Provence, you first drive over the high and flat Valensole plateau, home to some of the largest and most stunning lavender fields in France.  Miles and miles of sweet purple flowers, as far as the eye can see.

view over Valensole lavender fields

If you’re in Provence and you like lavender, this is Catnip Central. 🐈. . . . . 🐈. .. . . It’s purrfect. Ain’t nothin’ but lavender for miles. You can bathe in the views and lather up with lavande.

Valensole lavender fields
When you see pictures of giant fields of Provencal lavender, it’s usually from this high and dry plateau.  I was there in first week of June and it was just shy of really hitting their peak blooms. It really peaks later in June and early July.

After driving across the plateau, you dip down into some of the most luscious, golden wheat fields you’ve ever seen. Picture perfect, dancing in the breeze

fields near Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
wheat near Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

And then you curve around the windy corners, headed for the limestone cliffs ahead, you pull a hair-pin turn around some small farms and big cows, then pop up between a couple of narrow hills and BOOM, you see it…

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is Like Being in a Fairytale

view of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Moustiers-Ste-Marie is recognized as one of The Most Beautiful Villages of France, so when you see that, you know it’s going to be good. It’s like they sent a set-decorator to create the dreamiest village you can think of in your head.

village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Moustiers is also hard to capture in a photo. It’s weird, there’s something about those mottled colored limestone cliffs that throws off cameras and makes for a mottled looking photo. Not just me, even though I took about 23 pics. Google photos from here and you can see what I mean, everyone has the same results; they all look like they’re using the same filter. But this is a straight up click. There must be a million subtle shades of stone that camouflage this shy town.  

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie view

Moustiers is freakishly beautiful. Surreal, even. Almost looks like painted illustrations in a children’s storybook. With many pages.

view of church from Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie main square people

Moustiers has only about 700 residents, which helps its quaint location feel all that more special. Moustiers is also known for its beautiful and elegant pottery and home to one of the best hotels in France.  

I know, it feels like you’re looking up in all these pics of the village, but that’s because you are. It’s tucked right into the camouflaging limestone cliffs behind it.

Moustiers main piazza
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie mountains and town
view over Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Climb Up to the Famed Notre Dame de Beauvoir

Notre Dame de Beauvoir Moustiers up close
It’s much more noticeable in person, but there’s a shiny gold star strung across the small valley that swaddled the Notre Dame church, further adding to the fairytale feel of this cute little village.

Pilgrims have been coming to this church Notre Dame de Beauvoir since Charlemagne’s time, hiking up to the ancient chapel, with stations of the cross along the way. The path is so worn from two thousand years of pilgrims that it’s actually quite slick going up or down, so bring some grippy shoes.

people on stairs Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Notre Dame de Beauvoir over Moustiers
pilgrimage to Notre Dame de Beauvoir Moustiers
steps down to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Stay at Chef Alain Ducasse’s Famed La Bastide de Moustiers

But the real reason why I made the pilgrimage here was to La Bastide de Moustiers, famous chef Alain Ducasse’s former private country house that he turned into a small hotel, built around his famous Michelin-starred restaurant where the famous lavender meets the mountains. I wanted to come here for over a decade. People helicopter in from Monaco just to have lunch here.

He bought this 17th Century place long ago while riding his motorcycling through Provence. Then renovated it into his own private hideaway, eventually remodeling it into a small luxury inn, with a Michelin-starred restaurant that celebrates the terroir of Provence. Everything they serve is either grown on the property or sourced from local farmers.

La Bastide de Moustiers breakfast terrace
La Bastide de Moustiers restaurant gate
La Bastide de Moustiers dining terrace
The dining terrace. Unfortunately, not a good picture, result of the Noah-esque deluge that dampened my plans for al fresco dining… and canyoning and harrowing hiking.

The inside was dreamy: an old arched ceiling farmhouse, dabbled off-white all over, decorated to the 9s with clouds of flowers from the prolific garden, with food handed down from the heavens. As you’d want an Alain Ducasse restaurant to serve. (He later descended by helicopter after my departure, I was txt’d by a new friend later, which was fitting… and allegorical.)

I don’t like most Michelin-starred restaurants, even when the food is amazing. Too stuffy. Too fancy. Too many endless forks. Gimme lamb cooked with 🔥! . But the mood here is not that. It matches the vibe of an elegant house in the country, which it is, with smiling, friendly waiters that welcome you like elder brothers. Proud to show you the good stuff. The staff made it all so fun, with diners pulling up to tables next to strangers after dinner to continue the fun.

Alas, not the type of atmosphere to take pics of your food. How gauche. So you’ll just have to come here and experience it. With a cool bottle of sparkly Badoit on your droit.

La Bastide de Moustiers patio umbrellas

The setting for La Bastide de Moustiers is just 💣, set right outside Moustiers, the cliffs looming over the green fields. The village is a walkable couple of a blocks away, but from here you have open views of those crazy colored limestone mountains that bear-hug the village. They grow nearly all their own food in gardens you can walk right up to, in the greenhouse or from surrounding farms.

They have lovingly hung hammocks from shady trees around the pasture, perfect for napping between meals, with the cool breeze and donkey honks soothing you to sleep. And only a handful of rooms means you practically have the place to yourself. Since the hotel is built around a Michelin-starred restaurant, expect the rooms to be just as nice… and a price to match. So save up for it because it’s a stay you’ll never forget.

Hehehe… this place was so good…

The Most Perfect Breakfast

La Bastide de Moustiers breakfast courtyard

Calling it a hotel would be beneath it, really. This was too nice, too small. Too intimate. It’s more like an “inn”… or staying at a friend’s country house… if your tasteful friend happened to be Alain Ducasse.😳 With only a handful of rooms, each decorated with its own Provençal theme, you feel like you have the whole place to yourself.

And some exquisite sheets to crash after your Michelin-starred meal on the terrace and jaw dropping views. I stayed only for two glorious nights, they were booked-up for any more. I think you should stay a minimum of three to take in everything that the area — and the hotel — has to offer.

They have the cutest pool, too. My camera got fried in the rain in the gorge, then I was showing pictures on my phone to a new friend I met in the restaurant and the phone slipped from her hands and shattered. Check out their website for more pics and descriptions.

La Bastide de Moustiers breakfast
This was the first morning’s breakfast. With delicate hand-painted china made in Moustiers.

The breakfasts were just so perfect. Served out in the quiet garden, everyone getting their own private corner. Newspapers spread out on antique carts and a different place setting each day, showcasing the absolutely gorgeous hand-painted china from Moustiers. A bowl of cafe au lait, thin as a whisper, gorgeous flowers on the sides where you can see every brushstroke. I’m not a china guy, but I so wish I could have brought a set of these back with me.

La Bastide de Moustiers newspapers at breakfast

Spring For A Suite

La Bastide de Moustiers Suite Bastidon entrance gate
If you splurge on a suite hopefully you’ll get the Bastidon Suite, set discretely across from the hotel with its own walled private garden and views over the valley. It’s hidden in plain site, almost invisible.

Try to reserve the Bastidon Suite, you’ll feel like a rockstar in your own private domain.

La Bastide de Moustiers suite sidewalk
La Bastide de Moustiers patio of suite
La Bastide de Moustiers Suite Bastidon fountain

And France’s Grand Canyon is Right Around the Corner

You definitley should go drive around, through or on top of the amazing Gorges du Verdon, 20 minutes away from La Bastide de Moustiers. Here’s a huge post I made on how to do that. And how not to. It is incredible.

Gorges du Verdon best view
Overview Gorges du Verdon
view of Gorges du Verdon

Last visited June 2015. Post updated June 2024

More Information on Moustiers and Le Bastide de Moustiers

Here’s the official Moustiers-Sainte-Marie tourism website. The province’s tourism webpage. A nice little profile on the very handy Provence & Beyond website. Here’s great information on Moustiers from France This Way.

And TripAdvisor’s page. And Lonely Planet’s guide to cheaper accommodations.

And a great resource for Gorge du Verdon, official site.

And finally La Bastide de Moustier’s website. And a review of La Bastide de Moustiers from The Telegraph . and the official Michelin review of this Michelin-starred place. And a review on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. If you’re in the area, you gotta go spend at least a couple of days touring the Grand Canyon of France, the Gorges du Verdon and Lac Sainte-Croix, both just down the road — here’s a huge post I made about it.

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